By: Eric Morken, Alexandria Echo Press
The Blizzard put together a three-point weekend and showed off some mental toughness in the process before heading into its Christmas break after its game in Aberdeen last Saturday.
Alexandria played one of its best games of the season in a 6-0 win over the Wings on Friday night. The two teams then traveled to Aberdeen, where the Blizzard fought back from a 5-3 deficit in the third before falling in overtime, 6-5.
Rebounding for that point on Saturday was more significant because of what the Blizzard had to overcome to get it. The team was without three of its top four forwards because Steve Zierke, Alex Altenbernd and Brent Bain were in Grand Forks with the USA Under-18 team to play the University of North Dakota.
Leading scorer Nardo Nagtzaam did everything he could to make sure the Blizzard did not skip a beat. He finished that night with two points and was named the NAHL Player of the Week after tallying two goals and three assists over the weekend.
The loss of three of the team’s top players around him gave others an opportunity to play expanded roles. Players like Thomas Williams and Gerald Owen took advantage in key situations. Down 5-3 early in the third, Owen scored off assists from Zach Wilkinson and Chad Spiller. That 5-4 score is how things would stand until Williams got one of his biggest goals of the season to tie the game with less than three minutes left.
“Down 5-3 late in the game, it would have been pretty easy to have your mind on the bus,” head coach Doc DelCastillo said. “Give credit to our guys. They didn’t do that. They stayed with it, found a way to get two goals, found a way to get a point. Three out of four possible points, considering Zierke, Alex and Bain were gone on Saturday night. We’ll take it. I’m extremely proud of them.”
The Blizzard might have been able to get that extra point if not for an early penalty in overtime. The Wings took advantage of the power play less than two minutes into the extra session when Cory Ward got the game winner off an assist from Michael Malady.
Penalties were a reoccurring theme all night. The two teams combined for 60 minutes in the box on 22 infractions. Blizzard players committed 13 of those as the Wings converted two of those opportunities into goals.
“I wasn’t really happy with the penalties that we took,” DelCastillo said. “Some were necessary and some were not. It’s always very disappointing going shorthanded in overtime. When you are going four on four and then take a penalty to go four on three, it just doesn’t help your chances.”
Things were a lot cleaner for Alexandria the night before. The Blizzard dominated on its home ice from the drop of the puck in the series opener.
The team got contributions from all over the ice in the process. Zierke and Nagtzaam each had three points to lead the charge on offense. Williams, Casey Purpur, Ryan Doner and Craig Lindegard each added two points apiece.
That was more than enough for the Blizzard defense and goaltender Jake Williams. The goalie from Montreal got the shutout by turning aside all 25 shots sent his way.
“That’s probably the most complete game we’ve played,” DelCastillo said. “That’s all facets of the game – defense, offense, guys just doing what they’re supposed to be doing. I thought we came out of the locker room ready to go, which is something we had talked about. We had good goaltending, good defense, good power play…as a coach, if you could diagram exactly how you want a team to play, that’s how you would draw it up every night.”
The Blizzard put the finishing touches on the win with a dominant third period. Alexandria outshot Aberdeen 16-2 in the final frame. Lindegard got his second goal of the night almost seven minutes into the period before Zierke put an exclamation point on the victory with less than five minutes left.
“That’s the way you want to finish games,” DelCastillo said. “In this league, the weekend before Christmas is hard if you’re the road team and you get down like that. I think we just smothered them. Offensively and defensively, our guys did what they were supposed to do.”
The players and coaches will now head into their Christmas break with a little momentum before going to Coulee Region on December 30. Alexandria, at 12-11-4, has 31 games left to try to overcome what is an 11-point lead by Bismarck in the Central Division standings.
ALEXANDRIA 0 3 2 0 – 5
ABERDEEN 1 3 1 1 – 6
SHOTS – Alexandria – 9, 15, 13, 1 – 38; Aberdeen – 10, 19, 11, 2 – 42
SCORING SUMMARY – FIRST PERIOD – Aberdeen – Brandon Platt (Michael Malady), 11:00
SECOND PERIOD – Alexandria – Jeff Bergh, 7:00; Alexandria – Gerald Owen (Vadim Gyesbreghs, Chad Spiller), 7:50; Aberdeen – James Rudi Pino (Nils Semjonovs), 8:07; Aberdeen – Cody Marooney (PPG) (Brandon Platt), 9:38; Alexandria – Nardo Nagtzaam (PPG), 15:20; Aberdeen – Paul Prescott (Blake Adams, Tyler Poulsen), 17:53
THIRD PERIOD – Aberdeen – Tyler Poulson (Tim Tuscher, CJ Pullar), 1:07; Alexandria – Owen (Zach Wilkinson, Chad Spiller), 2:08; Alexandria – Thomas Williams (PPG) (Paul LaDue, Nagtzaam), 17:07
OVERTIME – Aberdeen – Cory Ward (PPG) (Malady), 1:52
PENALTIES – Alexandria – 34 minutes on 13 infractions; Aberdeen – 26 minutes on nine infractions
GOALTENDING – Aberdeen – Frederick Leisner – W, 33 saves, 38 shots faced; Alexandria – Jake Williams – OTL, 36 saves, 42 shots faced
ABERDEEN 0 0 0 – 0
ALEXANDRIA 2 2 2 – 6
SHOTS – Aberdeen – 11, 12, 2 – 25; Alexandria – 16, 12, 16 – 44
SCORING SUMMARY – FIRST PERIOD – Alexandria – Jordan Nelson (Alex Altenbernd, Steve Zierke), 13:13; Alexandria – Craig Lindegard (Ryan Doner, Casey Purpur), 14:29
SECOND PERIOD – Alexandria – Nagtzaam (Zierke, Williams), 3:31; Alexandria – Bain (PPG) (Nagtzaam, Williams), 19:53
THIRD PERIOD – Alexandria – Lindegard (Doner, Purpur), 7:10; Alexandria – Zierke (Vadim Gyesbreghs, Nagtzaam), 15:20
PENALTIES – Aberdeen – 14 minutes on seven infractions; Alexandria – 16 minutes on eight infractions
GOALTENDING – Alexandria – Williams – W, 25 saves, 25 shots faced; Aberdeen – Leisner – L, 38 saves, 44 shots faced